Wellington International Airport (ICAO: NZWN, IATA: WLG) is the gateway to the capital of New Zealand. It has a reputation for its howling winds giving aircraft a rough ride on their way in and out. WLG is the 3rd busiest airport in New Zealand behind Christchurch (NZCH) and Auckland (NZAA), but is considered the best in the country photography-wise due to the variety of locations around the airport perimeter. Airport Security is quite lenient, as well. A majority of the traffic is domestic with a couple of international flights across the Tasman to Australia, and a wide-bodied aircraft four times a week. Hills surround the airport, giving some fantastic locations to watch aircraft. Best of all, a car isn’t necessary as you can walk between all of the spots.

Spot 1: Steep Hill behind freight sheds and long-term car park

Located on Stewart Duff Drive opposite the road up to the water treatment plant is a steep hill which you have to be careful to get to the top of. This spot gives fantastic views of RWY 34 arrivals and aircraft taxiing for takeoff. When RWY 16 is in use, it can give some great departure shots, along with a nice overview of the domestic terminal, as well. On a clear day, you may even be able to see the South Island! This spot is good year-round, and is best from early to mid morning. This spot will be backlit in the afternoon. This spot is not near much of anything, so make sure to bring anything you need, and you can always walk 5 minutes to the terminal. A 70-300mm lens will be sufficient for this location.

Coordinates: -41.333865 174.8105

An Airbus A400M Atlas departs from the “Steep Hill” location. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)
You can get a great view of landings from the “Steep Hill,” as well. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)
The vibrant colors of this Jetstar special livery shine in the New Zealand sun. This is one of the many great photo opportunities you can get from the “Steep Hill” location. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)

Spot 2: Wexford Road Lookout (and hill behind)

This is probably the most popular location at the airport. From here, you will be able to get RWY 16 arrivals, as well as great views down the main taxiway and runway, along with approaching aircraft. A 70-300mm lens will be sufficient here, but a wide angle lens is recommended if you want images of taxiing narrowbody aircraft like the B737 and A320. You can also snag RWY 34 departures and arrivals if the aircraft roll down the runway enough, which is mostly narrowbody aircraft as well. This spot is best from sunrise to midday, as in the afternoon, it will be backlit. To get a slightly different angle, which I prefer, you can also go up the hill located behind this spot behind the building. A longer lens will be required if you would like rotation shots. If you are driving here, you are able to park your car on a bit of road on the left at the end of the road, up the hill.

Coordinates: -41.318056 174.809694       For the hill slightly behind: -41.317605 174.810992

This Bombardier Global Express can be seen approaching RWY 34 from the Wexford Rd. spot. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)
A one-off Air New Zealand B777 made an appearance recently, allowing for some awesome shots from the Wexford Rd. location. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)
The stunning colors of the ANZ ATR-72 can be seen from the Wexford Rd. location. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)

Spot 3: Bridge Street

This spot is one of the closest spots to the runway, and is great from midday until sunset. It is great for RWY 16 approaches, touchdowns, and departures, as well as RWY 34 arrivals as most B737, A320, and B777 aircraft will turn off at the end of the runway. It is located on Bridge St, and to get there you need to head to a small grassy area at the north end of the street, and head to the south side of the grassy patch where you can find a hill that elevates you a few meters off the ground. I, personally, like to stand right at the edge of the hill looking towards the runway. Unfortunately, there is a large bush in the way of approaching aircraft, so I will usually go further along the ledge to the fence. The quadruple-weekly Singapore Airlines flight will land right in front of you, and this is quite the sight!

Coordinates: -41.320502 174.806073

You can get some incredible touchdown shots of the Singapore Airlines 777 landing at the Bridge St. spot, like this close up with the gear the second the massive aircraft touches down. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)
The United Arab Emirati President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan recently visited Wellington, and his beautiful government-owned 787 made a visit, as seen from the Bridge St. location. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)

Spot 4: The Subway

This spot is good for RWY 34 departures, particularly smaller aircraft. Unfortunately, most larger aircraft departures will be obstructed by trees or the fence for side shots, although they will appear again further down the runway. To get down to this spot, head down Courts St. until you get to the Subway, which leads underneath the runway. There will be a grassy area with a bench, and this is when you know you’ve found the spot. You can also look down at the western apron where GA parks, as well as the Execujet hangar which houses a majority of the private jet movements here. There is also a military area here, where occasionally RNZAF 757’s or C130’s park, as well as government aircraft as big as the B767. A 70-300mm lens is sufficient here. This spot is best from midday to sunset.

Coordinates: -41.324522 174.805678

Occasionally, you can get some good shots of heavies, such as this B777, departing from the “Subway”spot. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)

Spot 5: Tirangi Road

This is a nice spot for RWY 16 arrivals, and aircraft taxiing onto RWY 16 for departure. To get here, walk up Tirangi Rd. from either end until you get to the top of the ramp down to the other end of the road. This spot is amazing from midday until sunset, and I wouldn’t recommend this spot in the summer as there is a lot of heat haze in the middle of the day. It is great from late afternoon to sunset. A 70-300mm lens is sufficient here.

Coordinates: -41.319855 174.805678

Aircraft spooling up can be captured quite nicely in the sunset light from the Tirangi Rd. spot. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)
Small aircraft like the ATR-72 are great testing subjects for spots like Tirangi Rd. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)
An ANZ A320 lands, viewed from the Tirangi Rd. spot. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)

Spot 6: WWII Hill Fortress

This spot is further from any of the spots I’ve previously mentioned, but it gives you a quite unique vantage point. To get to this spot, head down Ahuriri St. until you get to the end of the road. There is then a fence with a sign saying “Airways NZ Palmer Head Navigation Site.” You are allowed to go on the site, but do not bring your vehicle. Use the door opening to enter the area, and follow the concrete driveway about 200 meters until it separates, and then go to the barracks on the right. Right outside, you can stand on the cliff edge. This spot is good for RWY 34 arrivals, and is great for photos from sunrise to midday. You need at least a 200mm lens to get decent shots of mainline aircraft, and a 300mm+ is required for smaller aircraft.

Coordinates: -41.339078 174.812712

Fiji Airways is one of the newer carriers to Wellington, and is seen here landing from the WWII Fortress Spot. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)
The sparkling blue water creates a stunning backdrop for arriving aircraft. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)
The WWII Fortress spot gives some incredible views above the aircraft, giving an air-to-air type feel. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)

Spot 7: Moa Point Road

This road runs parallel to with the runway and is good for both RWY 34 arrivals and RWY 16 departures. This spot is best from midday until sunset. Theoretically, anywhere along the side of the road is fine, and I recommend standing on some of the taller rocks to get a better view. There can be quite a heap of heat haze in the summer, as well. A 70-300mm lens is sufficient for this spot.

Coordinates: -41.330879 174.80532

The Moa Point spot gives some great close ups for landings on RWY 16. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)
Qantas operated by Jetconnect operate multiple flights each day from Auckland. Here, a special livery is seen from the Moa Point spot. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)
The ANZ Q300 is a common site from the Moa Point spot. (Photo: Michael Eldridge / Layoverhub)

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Categories: Spotter Talk